Sunday, 8 June 2014

Tolstoy Therapy Birthday Giveaway: Which Book Has Shaped Who You Are Today?

Two years ago (only two years?), I started up Tolstoy Therapy as a summer project after finishing my first year of university. It was a way of keeping myself busy and adding another layer to my reading, but it's become the most worthwhile experience.

221 posts later, I've met the most wonderful readers and bloggers, and I've been introduced to so many books that are now favourites. For this, alongside many other reasons, I thank you!

As means of a small thank you gesture, I'm giving away a £15 email gift certificate to spend on Amazon books. I wish I could think up something more imaginative, but I think this will be the easiest way to treat a fellow booklover!

Simply comment below with the book that has most shaped who you are today (a difficult choice, I know!), and a week today - on Sunday 15th June - I'll randomly select one person to receive it.

I'll contact the winner by email (if I know it), or as a reply to your comment. Therefore, you don't need to leave any personal details, but perhaps check the comments in a week's time!

Once again, I'm so grateful to all my readers. I'm looking forward to hearing which books are chosen by you all!

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bellezza said...

Ah, my friend, first let me say how glad I am that you began a blog. Your posts are insightful and interesting, always bringing me to a new, or fresh, understanding of concepts I toy with all the time. (Mainly understanding feelings.)

I'm not sure I can say which book has shaped who I am today without reiterating what you know about me. Certainly the Bible takes first place, with words that are always falling on me fresh. But Madeleine L'Engle had her place in teaching me about love. Donna Tartt had her place in showing the effects of pride and depression. All the reading 8've done this winter for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize opened up worlds to me completely unknown, which is also what happened with Japanese literature.

So, for a fresh take, let me say that Haruki Murakami's book Kafka On The Shore has had a huge impact on my life. I love that he leaves his readers "wide open to possibilities", that he doesn't tie up all the loose ends for us in a nifty package. I love that he fed my hunger for Japanese literature. I love that he opened doors for me in magical realism that previously I had locked tight in my narrow frustration.

Of course, The Secret History, and our friend Tolstoy, will ally's hold a place in my heart, too.

Alexandra McCarthy said...

I'm so pleased to have come upon your blog! Your posts are always insightful and help to further my own reading and study as well! It's certainly difficult to select only one book but I would have to say Anna Karenina for its insight into the human character and struggle. I've read it several times over the years and continue to ponder through it's characters and words months after each completion. My favorite character is Levin for his development as an individual and the ways in which he learns to combat his feelings of unrest.

MarcyS said...

I guess I have to say that Doris Lessing's The Four Gated City has been the biggest literary influence on my life. I adopted its perspective on the world and life and history. I hesitated to choose this book, because I was in my 30s when I read it, and it seems to me that for a book to shape your development it would have been read at a younger age--but I cannot think of any book that affected me more. And, of course, since I wrote an entire blog post for you on FGC, I needn't explain myself any further!

It's pretty wonderful of you to offer your readers this "contest."

Brian Joseph said...

This is such a tough question that is making me think. I have been enormously influenced by literature yet it is so very difficult to zero in on one book as I tend to avoid definitive answers from any one external source- if that makes any sense.

Oddly enough I think that my biggest influences can be found in non - fiction. That would be the writings of Carl Sagan who was not just a scientist but also a philosopher. His melding of a scientific, rationalistic view of the Universe with a philosophy of Humanism, respect and caring for fellow people, respect for the Earth itself, ect. did have a huge impact upon me. He did write one fiction book called "Contact" in which he attempted to impart these values.

Probably the one fiction book that had the most impact upon me is "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse. It really highlighted the need to find strength and balance in one self especially when confronted with the realities of existence.

Rivorniel Tinubelin said...

Congratulations, Lucy! :) I honestly don't remember how or when I found your blog, but it was a while back. (I actually tried to remember very hard last night, but no, can't remember :) )

And the question is of course difficult. One book? But, but there are so many :p I thought about this hard and settled on The Lord of the Rings books in the end (or book, although it mostly comes in three volumes). The books taught me that there is another world behind our "real" world and that if I stretch my mind a bit, that other world can often feel even more pleasant than the one we live in.

Robin said...

I too congratulate you, Lucy. As far as literature that has influenced me, I'd have to put Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the top of the list. I listened to it on records over and over in 7th grade when I had mono. For a shy, introverted boy, the idea that one could have a male exterior but a female interior was reassuring. Since I grew up in football-mad Tennessee but preferred books, I particularly liked the scene where Viola, as a man, is expected to fight a duel but feels entirely out of her depth.

Camilla P said...

Congratulations for this milestone! :)

Choosing just one book is really difficult, for me, because I can think of several that shaped the person I am today, and picking one of them over the others seems very unfair to me... but since I have to, I'll try.
"Les Miserables" is, for certain, one of the first titles that comes to my mind. It changed me as a reader - Hugo is now my favourite author - and it changed me as a person, because Jean Valjean, Monsieur Bienvenu, Marius, Javert and all other characters now live inside me.

David said...

Love the blog, and was excited by the idea of a competition- But what a tricky question! For me it would have to be Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. Whenever I feel hassled or stressed with the world, or even just want a small bit of insight into the mind of a genius, I dip into his meditative passages that just help me to feel more at peace 'Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them'. How could I not love it!

Melwyk said...

Wow, this is a really tough question. So many books have had such an influence on me! I think the first one that really hit me, that I remember, was LM Montgomery's Emily of New Moon -- as a twelve yr old, the idea that a life in the arts was a valid choice for a young girl to aim for, without relying on getting married, was a mind-blowing concept! As an adult, I've found Jane Eyre really important to me; she's one tough woman, with her own internal logic. I love that.

Deb said...

The book which most shaped who I am now is an old, non-fiction title called "Bodyshock" by Liz Hodgkinson. Until reading that, I was unaware it was at all possible to change one's life in any way so radical.

But I read Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" long before, and it was that novel which altered how I saw fiction. Until then, books had been simply a way to escape. And there's nothing wrong with that! it's still the main reason why I read. But Frankenstein showed how a novel could be so much more than only that.

Frankenstein's creation was, inwardly, everything an eighteenth century gentleman (or an early nineteenth century one) ought to be, in terms of sensibilities and education. But he was judged only by his physical appearance. Not only was he ugly, but he was frighteningly grotesque, and therefore something (not someone!) to be afraid of. Reading about that dichotomy was my first "Ohh, yes! I know this!" moment.

Forget the cliche of "woman trapped in a man's body". Better to say that my sensibilities and longings simply didn't fit with the body I had then. And Frankenstein showed me that literature was a way to explore those personal issues which make up our lives.

So, for me, the book would be Frankenstein.

Elena said...

Really tough question, but I would say "The Hound of the Baskervilles" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was the first adult crime fiction that I read at only 12 years and I fell in love with the genre right there, forever. The story is well-known, but for a 12-year old it is innovative, complex and extremely intelligent.

Thanks for such a generous giveaway, Lucy! It means a lot to all of us to have you around spreading tips on healthier thinking and being :)

tolstoytherapy said...

The winner of the birthday giveaway is... Alexandra McCarthy!

Thank you for all your wonderful comments, book choices and kind words. I'll get back to individual comments in the coming days!

Once again, thank you so much for two years of supporting the blog. Happy reading!

Deb said...

Congratulations, Alexandra :)

tolstoytherapy said...

Thank you for the comment, David! I don't know where I'd be without Aurelius's Meditations - they're truly unique and completely unbeatable when it comes to cheering myself up! My copy is covered in notes, references and underlined's a real guide to life! I'm certain that the superb quote you've chosen is one such sentence.

tolstoytherapy said...

Thank you for the comment and congratulations, Camilla! I agree that it's so hard to choose just one book, but Les Miserables is such a good choice. I absolutely love what you've said about the book, especially about the characters now living inside you! I can definitely relate to that.

michelleski said...

I just wanted to thank you for bringing this book/series to my attention. It seems like a horrifying number of books manage to slip through the cracks, leaving it up to the treasure seekers of the world to unearth them and get them circulating in the world again. So, thank you for this treasure!

tolstoytherapy said...

Thank you so much, Alexandra, and great choice! I really must read Anna Karenina again soon - Levin is an incredible character and certainly one of my favourites. I really hope you're well.

tolstoytherapy said...

Thank you so very much, Riv! Lord of the Rings is a superb choice (and good move choosing a trilogy!) Tolkien included so many quotes which I'd do well to remember, and has really helped me to act courageously when I need to. I absolutely love what you've said about there being a more pleasant world if we stretch our minds a little. You're completely right - I'll remember this!